It may not seem like a big deal, but this week’s decision to add decorative lighting on St. Louis Ave. in Ocean City is significant.
St. Louis Ave. is one of my favorite roads to bike and drive in Ocean City. Due to the economy, the needed reconstruction of this road has been delayed for several years. Work is underway currently on its northern section, from 10th to 17th streets. Two more phases are planned for the next two years.
At this week’s meeting, the City Council voted 5-2 to allocate funds to decorative street lighting. The previous council decided not to move forward with the more attractive lights for the first phase due to the $154,000 estimate, but it was decided to install the conduits for the work to be done down the road.
Thanks to the OCDC scoring half of the necessary funding in grants, the council decided this week it could now afford the lights, utilizing some of the projected cost savings from the ongoing Boardwalk project and other repairs that came in under budget. How the city will fund the light work for the remaining two phases is unknown at this point, but it will most certainly have to come up with the remaining funds for consistency sake.
In the end, the street will look similar to Baltimore Ave. without overhead utility lines and featuring attractive lamp posts. It’s going to be a nice addition to town.
It looks like minimum wage will soon be $10 an hour in this state, and that should come as frightening news to small businesses everywhere.
On Tuesday, the Raise Maryland campaign officially began with the goal of increasing the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 (federal rate) to $8.25 this summer and then increase it to $9 in 2014 and $10 in 2015. Additionally, the legislation calls for increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers from 50 percent of minimum wage to 70 percent.
“We boast that Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in the union, but do you know what it costs to live here?” said Delegate Aisha Braveboy, the House sponsor of the legislation. “We boast that we have the number one school system in the country. We have to work to create the number one work environment for all workers.”
All this talk makes me sick to my stomach. Employees are entitled to earning a livable wage, but it’s scary when government starts dictating what rates the private sector needs to give employees of varying proficiencies. Setting a random benchmark is dangerous territory.
This area is dominated by small businesses. In most circles, small business are considered those with revenues under $10 million. There are few who exceed that level around here, meaning nearly all businesses in this area are considered small or micro businesses.
When businesses do their budgets and allocate a certain amount to overhead, such as wages, it can be devastating when operators have to adjust to major increases in those costs. It’s worth noting these wage increases would come with no expectation of higher productivity from the individual employee.
That leaves employers with decisions to make, including cutting owner pay, terminating employees or reducing the hours of the employees to offset the higher wage mandate. These are options that must be explored when government issues crippling changes to business operations. Within reason, businesses should be allowed to pay their employees what their budgets allow. If the employees do not like it, they don’t have to take the job or they can seek employment elsewhere.
The free market can be a wonderful concept, but only if government allows companies to operate under best management practices, most of which must be determined on an individual business basis. Most Maryland legislators do not seem to get that, but Senator Jim Mathias and Delegate Mike McDermott expressed opposition to the wage hike this week. That’s good news, but they will have a difficult chore in convincing others it seems.